Why You Should Ditch Jeans While Hiking
Batman has the bat suit. It protects him from everything the bad guys throw at him.
You are a trekker, what do you have?
A Trekker has their own suit. A nice jacket to keep you warm, a nice pair of trekking pants, nice trekking shoes to keep your foot steady on the trail, a rucksack to carry your equipment, hat, trekking poles and so much more.
Batman wouldn’t wear jeans when he’s out beating up bad guys. So why would you wear a pair of jeans when you’re out in the mountains?
Okay, we’ll stop with the bad jokes.
Good quality outdoor gear performs 1 simple function, to protect you from the elements.
So don’t compromise outdoor gear for fashionable clothing and don’t buy cheap gear just to save a few hundred rupees. Good quality outdoor gear will save your life.
There is no point being fashionable if you’re going to be miserable.
‘Good quality outdoor gear performs one simple function, to keep you safe on the trail. So don’t compromise with cheap throw away gear or fashionable clothing pretending to built for the outdoors.’
When is it 'okay' to wear jeans when you're outdoors?
So, jeans might make sense if you’re going on a small hike and maybe have to go out and meet your friends at a pub after the hike. If not, it doesn’t make sense wearing jeans while hiking.
Now don’t get us wrong, a good pair of jeans can be extremely tough and rugged. They won’t rip easily. It will protect you from thorns and shrubs. It will keep you warm to a certain extent.
So why exactly are we recommending not wearing jeans when hiking in the mountains?
Why you should ditch jeans when hiking or trekking ?
1. Jean are made from highly absorbent fabrics
Jeans are made from cotton and cotton is a highly absorbent material.
If you wear denim/jeans while trekking and it happens to rain or if there is a river or stream crossing, your jeans will absorb a lot of moisture.
We are all aware of how the weather can change so drastically on our treks, especially on winter treks.
2. Not Quick Drying
If you wash your own clothes, you will know that when clothes are hung out to dry in the sun, your jeans are probably the last pieces of clothing to dry. It is because they are so thick and easily hold moisture.
A cotton tee will dry quickly because it is so thin, but because jeans are so thick, they will hold moisture for longer and will take a longer period to dry.
Imagine, if it starts to rain when you’re trekking and your pants get wet. Are you ready to trek for the next 6-8 hours in wet pants?
3. Keeping Cool
If the weather is warm while trekking and you start sweating, your jeans will absorb all this sweat.
Increased sweat absorption and retention near your thigh and groin region could lead to chaffing.
Chaffing on a trek is probably one of the worst things that can happen to you.
Increased sweat absorption and retention in your feet leads to blisters while trekking.
4. Might Restrict Movement
Jeans tend to be worn in two styles, skinny fit or loose hip-hop barely on your butt style. Neither of this is good when trekking. When you’re walking through forests brushing against rocks and branches you need something that protects you and helps you cross these sections with ease.
Your trekking pants have to have nice athletic fit, not too tight, not to lose.
So what are the Qualities of Good Outdoor Gear Clothing?
The layer of clothing closest to your body has to have wicking properties. What this means is, the fabric has to absorb the sweat from your skin and move it to the outer surface of the clothing to help it evaporate. Cotton performs really badly this way, cotton absorbs and retains moisture. The best wicking fabrics are merino wool but they tend to be priced on the higher side. The cheaper alternative is polyester fabrics but look for fabric with anti-odour or anti-microbial functions since polyester fabrics can start smelling bad after few days of trekking.
Fleece jackets do an amazing job of keeping you warm and insulating you from the cold. It’s not the jacket that keeps you warm, jackets like fleece jackets help capture warm air generated by your body and store these these pockets of warm air between your clothing layers and this is what keeps you warm.
Hard shell jackets, quick dry trekking pants, and ponchos are all designed to keep you dry in case of rains or snow. The key here is to learn and practice layer, to learn more, read our How to Properly Layer your Clothing For a Winter Trek.
One of the most important qualities of good outdoor fabrics is that they have to be breathable. Breathable fabrics do 2 things that makes them so crucial.
- It helps move sweat out from inside layers to the outer layers which helps it evaporate and keeps you dry
- Its prevent rain and moisture from going in.
5. Sun protection
The greatest misconception is that you need sun protection only for hot climates. Most first-timers come back from the Himalayas with sunburns. The altitude and proximity to the sun can affect your skin. So good sun protection in the form of sunscreen and outdoor gear clothing with UPF Rating (Ultraviolet Protection Factor).
Good Fabrics for Outdoors
1) Wool – Modern woollen fabrics such as merino wool is lightweight, soft, breathable and not itchy like what we used to wear when we were kids. But Merino Wool can be expensive. Some companies have begun to launch alternative fleece base layers which performs similarly to wool at a lower price point.
2) Polyester: Lightweight quick drying and affordable
Bad Fabrics for Outdoors
Cotton: Absorbs and retains moisture
Silk: Treated silk can be good at wicking but it is not rugged enough to withstand the outdoors.